Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Bad Team Building Ideas for Trust and Performance Improvement

In the midst of redoing a game design that requires additional components for discussing workplace trust and issues of performance improvement, I spent last night looking at a variety of dynamics around generating and maintaining trust between individuals, trust among team members, trust between team members and ideas for accelerating the quality of trust and collaboration. I did get some new ideas and there was some creativity going on as I did it. At the same time, there is not a lot of stuff out there that is very helpful for game design.

Some are simply good discussions, like Kevin Eikenberry’s video you can see here:

kevin

I like Kevin’s work and thought his ideas were good but nothing really grabbed me for the design work.

SO, I went into Google and searched for trust exercise to see if there were any more ideas, frameworks or insights I might spin into the new simulation and Google popped me into a page of images. And all my good research intentions spun quickly downhill into these writings. I will admit that this was a fun one to put together, with a bunch of giggles! Yet, I also hope that this post will be illustrative of what I see are some real issues around doing team building activities with real people in real workplaces.

The first image that jumped out at me from Google’s images was this one:

trust 1

The image was attributed to Riana Green / flickr.com and the link was to Psychology Today and an article on Floating, Trust and Religion. I am not really understanding any of this but you can find the blog if you click on the image. Should the link to team building and trust escape you, let me simply note that it escaped me, also. But it DID get me looking at more images as my curiosity was piqued.

The wag in me said to myself, yep, a lot of the results of team building exercises
in corporate situations DO in fact look like the image above,
but then I quickly struck that thought from my mind. (grin)

Okay, the next picture that leaped out was this one:

trust 2

The image was from ashleylatruly.tumblr.com but the link no longer worked. Yeah, I am guessing that the activity underlying the above image did have some components of trust built-in although I am not sure what they were nor would I suggest doing this in any kind of corporate context with a mannequin much less an actual person. But who am I to judge, right?

Yeah, this next one is certainly around trust. It is also one that I would suggest not be done casually out on the organization’s front lawn. But, yeah, this would certainly build trust; I am just not sure it would translate all that well toward improved corporate performance. And I am still thinking of how to put this into a board game…

trust 3

That takes us to these other kinds of activities, so much fun for teenagers but maybe a little less appropriate workplace adult organizational improvement programs. I am reminded that US Department of Labor statistics that show about 1 in 7 women past the age of 65 are still working and by 2024, that is predicted to increase to almost 1 in 5 or more than 6,000,000 workers in total. I would think that doing any of the team activities pictured below might be somewhat problematic (and I note that there will also be six different decades represented within many workforces).

trust 4and trust 5

 

 

 trust 6

All the above sure seem like fun, however there is also that issue of “appropriateness” in relation to the various organizational cultures out there. Just imagine the “most senior managers” nuzzled up with the younger female employees. Or the discomfort for any variety of ages of people or new hires placed in these physically close positions. And, with that chair thing at the bottom, with 7 people standing on two metal chairs and two people UNDER those chairs and our general issues around obesity, what could possibly go wrong?

I’m reminded of the Tony Robbins Firewalks and his related motivational speeches by this short segment on The (Stephen) Colbert Report (click here). This was prompted by the different events where people had burned their feet to apparently prove something to themselves. Frankly, I think kayaking offers the same kind of benefit but without the fire. But I digress…

Then, we get into the Trust Building Professional Level Activities, where people who are both fit and somewhat already down the road toward collaboration and teamwork show that they can take their professional and physical development to new levels in situations such as those pictured below. As toward being “low ropes” kinds of organizational development activities, you may also find them a bit out of bounds or out of reality!

trust 7

and

trust 8

Remember that ALL these images came from my Google search for trust exercise. I did not make this stuff up and remain merely the archivist for collecting and organizing these ideas.

I DO believe that there ARE some things that we can do to build more trust and collaboration in the workplace, but they are just not like these pictured.

What strikes me the most about the above pictures and situations is my uncertainty as to whether everyone clearly understands all of the issues around doing effective organizational development including the regard for employee comfort and also avoiding lawsuits and other things detrimental to profitability and to the collaborative cultures we are trying to build. There are #baaadteambuilding things going on out there that make some of us simply shake our heads in wonder about who thought that up and who agreed to it?

Better alternative ideas do exist to what has been shown here! If you need some, connect with me,

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Note: These might all be excellent activities and exercises, but I try to write on themes of organizational development and team building and collaboration, and most of the things I share above are meant to poke fun at people who do not seem to truly understand issues of organizational culture and diversity and issues of age and personal preferences. I try to never make anyone uncomfortable with the kinds of things we choose to do as group activities. I have been in some that I did not like, whatsoever, over my years of experience.

Teambuilding Exercise – Overview of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

My associate in India  emailed me with the info that he had just run his 169th session involving my team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Pretty neat. And I am glad that we are leaving a “legacy” of teamwork and organizational improvement in India and in other countries.

He also shared his newest video overview of the exercise, which I thought to share here.Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Teambuilding Exercise

Click on the image for a 2-minute overview of a session held for one of their clients.
https://youtu.be/n2A4Di3ye_c

If you are interested in acquiring one of these exercises for your own use as a consultant or trainer, you can find information here on my website, or contact me directly at the email listed below

WP Header Image

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ –

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

BOSS: Spelled Backwards

Boss. In organizations, a lot of people know precisely who that is. And that can be a positive or a negative, as I will try to explain.

My dad owned a small trucking company in South Jersey for nearly 50 years and he was the boss, for sure. He made all the decisions, ran the office, did the collection, gave his customers bottles of hooch every Christmas and ran the company as a one-man band. He had a half-dozen trucks and he did well enough to buy a summer house that gave our family a place to be at the beach, boats and cars and all that. From that perspective, my dad was a good boss.

On the other hand, there is an aspect of BOSS that is not so good. You would sometimes see it in how he might interact with a driver. Orin was always stopping in on prospects to generate new business and my dad generally never wanted to talk with him, telling me to tell Orin he was not around, for example. Or if there was a problem, the conversation tended to be one-sided. My dad did not generally appreciate the thoughts and ideas of the guys who worked with him.

“I’m the boss, here” generally infers complete control and a bit more yelling and telling than asking and listening. Boss translates to Ruler, the Decider, someone who has all the bucks and they stop right there. I see the word “autocratic” in the management haze, the imperial-ness of the boss as a person.

  • I see The Boss theme happening in an organization where 60% of the employees feels that no one listens to their ideas or respects them for their work or personal accomplishments.
  • I see The Boss theme in organizations where 10% or less of the employees see themselves as actively engaged but the vast majority rating themselves as un-involved or even “Actively Dis-Engaged” and choosing not to be involved and engaged, with the correlated high levels of absenteeism and turnover. And even some sabotage (see this post of mine).
  • And, I see The Boss as someone who simply knows that they have the right ideas and approach and that they could not possibly benefit from any training on listening skills or engagement or innovation facilitation.

In those cases, BOSS spelled backwards probably is a pretty good explanation of their overall attitude and approach to employee involvement and engagement.

John was one such animal. He was The Boss, president of a company that asked me to help improve their customer service. We did some initial work and then had one of their first ever Manager’s Meetings, an all hands deal at a golf resort where we had scheduled some work sessions around some golf. You might have guessed that John was a Big Time Golfer, which is why a golf course was selected for a business meeting, and why meetings were actually scheduled around his tee times.

And, in that meeting, John actually said, while sitting there going through his mail (I was so shocked that I wrote it down!) as we were talking about employee ideas for improving the organization,

“That’s like asking the vegetables
how to design a refrigerator.”

John obviously saw himself as, The Boss.

And my one-liner back is,

Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.”

John was not there the following year, since his charter by the board of directors to improve operations and customer retention was not going that well regardless of what we tried to do at the lower levels.

A Customer Service Fundamental:

It’s hard to care for customers
if you don’t feel the boss cares for you.

Perceptions are important, and if workers don’t feel right about the company, it is hard to get them to do those things that exceed customer expectations. It is hard to get them to feel motivated to perform at moderate to high levels. Sure, the top performers perform, but they always do that for intrinsic reasons until they burn out and leave. Note that average employees are often involved in Presenteeism. the situation where they show up and accomplish the minimally accepted level of work and performance competence.

Aldo note that the poor performers are actively un-involved and sometimes intentionally sabotaging the work. Why not choose to do some things differently to get a result that is #morebetterfaster?

So, you might simply reflect on the simple themes in, “Hey Boss!” Asking for and listening to ideas from your people does not involve a lot of training or skills, just the positive intention to treat them effectively.

It can look something like this:

active involvement and engagement with Square Wheels

Any questions? Just ask me, because I am The Boss!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Jobs Demands-Resources Model explained with Square Wheels

In a really solid interview of Dr. Arnold Bakker, David Zinger (@DavidZinger) asks about the Jobs Demands-Resources Model that is being used to clarify the understanding of workplace issues of motivation and engagement. I encourage you to look at the interview as well as the explanation of the model to gain your own ideas about how things work and what things can be done differently to impact employee engagement.

But also understand that the two articles referenced in the interview are heavily referenced academic descriptions of models, issues, interactions and comparisons of studies of these topics. You might find them an intellectual challenge to decipher, as I did, although the basic messages are quite clear.

David, who is the organizer of the Employee Engagement Network, feels that Dr.  Bakker’s work on people and performance is top shelf and I would agree.

My interests were focused on a couple of things that were said as well as the overall operational structure of the model and how to use it, Bakker said, in part,

My first action would be to create ample opportunities for the exchange of job resources between employees, by creating structural working conditions and processes that foster the exchange of feedback, social support, ideas, communications, etc. These resources would foster work engagement and build cohesion among employees.

David also asked, “If HR practitioners or CEOs were to read just one or two of your articles, which one/s would you recommend?” to which Bakker suggested:

Two articles come to mind. The first I would recommend offers an overview of the Jobs Demands–Resources Theory. This article explains how job demands and resources have unique effects on job stress and motivation. And the other I would suggest covers the daily fluctuations in employee work engagement. Here, I examine the predictors and outcomes of daily engagement, and  how individuals can advance work engagement from one day to another.


He also said:

Fortunately, we can influence our own daily levels of employee work engagement by proactively optimizing our job resources. Some examples include talking to enthusiastic colleagues, creating our own positive feedback, and starting new and challenging projects. My current interest is, not surprisingly, particularly in the latter self-management behaviors people use to influence their own work engagement (e.g., job crafting, strengths use, mobilizing ego resources, resource exchange, team boosters).


I read all of the above as “by having a good mental model to reframe our work into making progress forward, we can use our own resources to improve our own resources.” And my view of the model, a bit less detailed than Bakker’s, would actually appear something like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Illustration of engagement

After all, the reality is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon and that sometimes we simply need to step back and reflect in order to reframe our thinking and to get out of the ditch and back up on the road.

If people work together with each other and management, and they take the time to discuss issues and opportunities, realities and best practices and ideas for workplace improvements of any and all kinds, you cannot expect them NOT to be more engaged and involved.

Nobody ever washes a rental car, and people with ownership involvement can be expected to treat things differently than those who are simply showing up, (what I call Presenteeism).

Remember that The Manager is the Motivator when it comes to improving the interactions of people in the workforce. This is NOT a task that can be accomplished by HR or Training and it is a daily occurrence, something that Bakker discusses in his interview and his second article.

 

I hope this is somewhat thought-provoking,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Please Wait – a thought on Innovation and Improvement

I was playing in my pool league and there was an old plastic sign that someone had stuck on the wall that I had been seeing for a dozen years but never thought about it. This time, I sent a note to myself and here is how that sign expressed itself in my thinking about how things really work in the process of continuous continuous improvement and organizational improvement.

Continuous continuous improvement of workplace processes

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!

is another framework for this process of involvement and engagement. People feel that few managers actually take the time to listen or consider their ideas. And that does not engender involvement or build ownership.

Take the time to ask for ideas and listen for ways to improve,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Innovation and Change: BIG Sale on Square Wheels!

A conversation turns into an idea and then an illustration is produced. That seems how creativity and innovation flow around here. A comment about buggy whips and top hats becomes an image about change and survival. Take a look at this simple illustration, but do take a moment to actually consider the realities.

BIG Specials on Square WheelsDO take a moment and consider what is happening…

The two stores on the left are closed because the business simply disappeared. Somewhere, someone is making buggy whips because there are still a few horse and buggy wagons rolling around. Heck, one company makes LED whips for your off-road vehicle so it can be seen in the dark! Another “buggy whip store” sells men’s clothing in Nebraska and they do not even have a website but only a FaceBook page. So it looks like that business buggy whip business has kind of disappeared…

Scan to the right and you will see The Big Sale going on at Harry’s Square Wheels Wagonry Store. Harry has been in business for a long time, has a great inventory of new wheels in a variety of colors. He can probably even order you chrome ones!

But note that his former employee, Susan, has opened up a new store, one selling tires. Susan and her partner Sally have limited inventory and small volume at this point. Susan and Sally got the idea one day when at work, and they decided to act on their idea and make these things more available. (Yeah, Harry has met Sally, finally.)

Square Wheels LEGO Intrinsic sitting stop

It was actually a big moment for the ladies, and they thought that they could capitalize on that idea and make round tires into a business. Personally, I have to wish them a LOT of success, because the idea is great, but having the ability and resources to implement the idea is what is important. Asking questions and generating involvement is a key success strategy for implementation.

We offer The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit for a meager $25 and we are nearly ready to launch our LMS MOOC to share some ideas and frameworks for how to use these simple illustrations and this direct approach to involve and engage people for workplace improvement.

Click here to read about Presenteeism, the reality that about 50% of most workers in most workplaces are “In, but Out” when it comes to their active involvement or the thinking that their boss listens to their ideas. It has been a workplace statistical constant since I started in the people and performance business in 1978.

The ONLY way to address the issues of un-engagement of the majority of a workforce is to involve and engage the Supervisors in the involvement and engagement process of their people to align to organizational visions and values and to focus them on improving their own workplace. I have never seen even a single workplace where people did not have good ideas for improvement.

It is NOT within an HR capability to fix this, nor one of Training and Development. It cannot be addressed with a survey or a videotape of the CEO talking about these things. LOTS of things can be done, but the rubber meets the road where the supervisor sits with the people.

It is a simple concept of providing them with bombproof tools and asking them to ask for ideas. Why not?

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Presenteeism – They are IN but they are OUT

I was reading some news feeds and came across the word, “Presenteeism” in an HR thread. The term was new to me, but since I was gathering some notes around the theme of involvement and engagement, it resonated. The common use is seemingly around working while sick and is seen as the opposite and related problem to absenteeism.

I think the term is much bigger than that and that presenteeism is much more prevalent than commonly thought. I want to expand and relate the term to issues of people and performance in general.

Repeatedly, we see that only about 1/3 of workers are engaged with work. Others are not engaged and some are even anti-engaged to the point where they are actively working against the organization. You can see a bit more on this if you read my blog about sabotage or if you google “workplace sabotage” or even search on issues around part-time employment problems. Those anti-organization workers are few in number and often known, since they tend to actively act and speak against the company and its management (but not always).

Individuals suffering from Presenteeism are a more common issue. I remember back in my college fraternity years that when we wanted to take a break during an active beer drinking game, we would announce, “I’m in, but I’m out,” effectively saying that we were still playing but that we were going to take a break for a bit.

The concept is actually getting a good bit of study from the academics. Wikipedia offers:

Scholars have provided various other descriptions of the concept. For instance, Simpson claimed that presenteeism is “the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job.” Aronsson, Gustafsson, and Dallner wrote that it means attending work even when one feels unhealthy. In a recent review of the literature, Johns highlighted the lack of agreement between the many definitions. The author claimed that many of the definitions lack utility and that the term is most often defined as going to work while ill. He further noted that definitions of presenteeism, which are centered on attending work while sick, have received more evidence of construct validity. In other words, when defined as coming to work while sick, presenteeism seems to relate more to logical outcome variables and correlates.

I am going to expand the concept to refer to the employees who are, IN but OUT when it comes to their everyday active involvement in their workplace, to the large percentage of people who are not at either end of the engagement curve, the ones that are not actively engaged or dis-engaged. These people in the middle are the people that organizations should be focused on, the ones who can contribute a bit more to the results than they currently choose to do. They have the skills to perform, just not the motivation or peer support.

SO, how does one reduce Presenteeism in their organization? There is a LOT of research that says that the concept is pretty simple and straightforward and I will summarize it in four simple rules:

  1. Ask them for their ideas
  2. Ask them for their ideas
  3. Ask them for their ideas
  4. Ask them for their ideas

Visually and operationally, presenteeism reduction can look something like this:

Presenteeism Prevention with Square Wheels LEGO

Stop the everyday pushing and pulling of the wagon and let people sit down and play with ideas for a bit of time. They will often discover or share new ways of doing things that might make an impact on processes but will surely make an impact on engagement.

My simple rule of thumb is that the activity of management asking their people for ideas about improving their workplace, and then dealing honestly and openly with suggestions is the most straightforward way to deal with presenteeism. (This is not about doing some survey where everything in anonymous and results get buried but the active, face-to-face interface of supervisors and workers or managers and supervisors.)

If you feel that the boss cares for you, you are much more likely
to care for your work and the work of others.

If you would like to see a short video about how this can actually be accomplished, click on the 13-second video offered below. We are trying to keep this simple and easy in regards of how it can help motivate and engage people:

Your efforts to dis-un-engage people can be very straightforward – you can act to get them more involved and you can help them remove perceived roadblocks.

‘For a more detailed, operational overview of these ideas, take a look at this more elaborate, explanatory video below. Note that you can do that by exposing YOUR workplace wagon and asking people for ideas about what things might work better and what ideas and resources might already exist. Again, the research on this suggests that 2/3 of the people in workplaces feel their boss is not interested in their thinking, a prime causal factor of Presenteeism:

You can find our simple toolkit for decreasing workplace Performance Presenteeism by clicking on the image below:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

My goal is to provide simple but effective tools for impacting people and performance, and I am not sure how I can be any more simple and straightforward. It is up to YOU to be more effective,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+

– you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

How many people have seen Square Wheels illustrations?

Got a problem with motivation, engagement or productivity and looking for a simple and bombproof, proven tool? Take a minute and read this. And Think!

A team of us are working at building our online teaching resource wrapped around the idea of “stupidly simple facilitation” through the use of my Square Wheels® theme. The project has gone through a number of phases and Dan Stones in Melbourne has jumped in to help us drive all of this forward. Expect some fun stuff as we continue to rock and roll.

As we were chatting, Dan asked me the simple question,

“How many people have seen or used Square Wheels?”

That is a really good question, for which I have no clue. History shows I have been presenting the theme at conferences and workshops since 1993 when I started using the main cartoon, Square Wheels One, done in black ink by my friend Roy Sabean. A few presentations later and I had 4 and then 7 different illustrations. When I got to 13, people started asking me for copies to use and I started selling a set in a brown envelope as colored transparencies and black line art.

Then, they wanted me to explain how to use them. Really? “Just do what I do or do your own thing,” I said, to no avail. They wanted me to write that stuff down, which resulted in a book with photocopiable masters. That was back in 1993, with the first book published in 1994.

By 2004, we were in our fifth edition of The Big Book, a package containing descriptions for using more than 200 of the illustrations and for making transparencies. I am guessing that I still have a 3 or 4 foot stack of transparency versions of these materials in different places in the house!

The cover of the 2004 Big Book of Square Wheels

So, I did not have an answer for Dan. Since 1993, I have presented workshops in 38 countries and dozens of conferences, including more than 10 trips each to places like Singapore and Hong Kong. And we have sold a lot of a variety of books and electronic toolkits since we started all this more than 20 years ago. My squarewheels.com website went up in 1998!

But I just saw a statistic that is relevant, one that I blogged on in a different place. There, I said:

For what is probably my 40th year of viewing this same statistical reality, here we go again: Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey summary, April 2016 shared this stunning commentary:

Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face.

Okay. So one thing I am pretty sure of.So, here is my tongue-in-cheek but serious answer to Dan’s original question:

Two-thirds of the employees worldwide have NOT had their manager use the Square Wheels theme in a discussion about improving their workplace involvement and performance.

If they did, things would probably be different. Square Wheels really are everywhere and the round ones are already in the wagon. Communications would have HAD to improve!

There ARE some things you can choose to do now:

Square Wheels LEGO poster of engagement and motivation

We believe that managers should be motivators, and that engagement comes directly from active involvement and communications about issues and opportunities, about goals and expectations. It is about teamwork and shared perspectives as well as about ideas for improvement/ We think “this engagement and motivation stuff” is pretty straightforward and that people are intrinsically motivated when they feel a sense of ownership involvement.

A solution? Consider using our $25 Stupidly Simple Toolkit to generate a conversation in your workplace. Or wait until we get our online MOOC up and running where we can teach and support you in your improvement initiative. The choice is yours and we will guarantee it will work for you to help involve and engage your people, improving communications in many ways,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

Stupidly Simple Engagement and Motivation

One gets whacked in the head, but maybe not often enough. No, let me change that to say that workplace whacking should be a lot more common and that every manager of every manager should be whacking their people about this problem. At some point, realistically, you would think managers would finally step back and see the stunningly obvious reality of how things are not working in workplaces to engage and motivate people. Or not…

For what is probably my 40th year of viewing this same statistical reality, here we go again: Leadership Management Australasia’s LMA survey summary, April 2016 shared this stunning commentary:

Communication and connection are the cornerstone of relationships – a quarter to a third of employees believe their managers seldom or never listen to them, understand their issues, seek their input and ideas, or help them to resolve the issues and challenges they face. This persistent gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity to leaders and managers.

Seriously? Two-thirds of the workers (or more) in another national survey feel that communications in their workplaces stink? Still? This is what I remember addressing back in 1978 when I first started organizational consulting on people and performance.

What boggles my mind is that this is one of those “forever” problems. Is it a training issue? NO, because if you put a gun to the head of the manager and threatened to blow her brains out if she could not communicate, you would actually SEE her communicate with her people (this is the Bob Mager Test, not mine, so do not blame me for any workplace violence — it is just a metaphor! Do NOT bring a gun to your leadership development programs unless you are in Texas.)

This is NOT a skill issue; training is not needed. But it might be a “tools” issue, and that might be readily solved. So, here is my proposed solution to this global communications issue, with me trying to keep things stupidly simple and obvious:

Square Wheels LEGO poster of engagement and motivation

This persistent and incessant gap in communications is simply numbing.

The manager should be the motivator and the communicator. After all, who else has the connection to the workers?

This is such a persistent problem that we are going to develop an unnecessary but apparently critical actual online MOOC training course to teach people how to use this stupidly simple communications tool, the Square Wheels metaphor, complete with worksheets and training and collaborative support across a global community of people wanting to improve motivation and engagement. Overkill, probably.

But we are going to eliminate the excuses for people not talking,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Images that Changed The World – 1972 and 2016

The image of The Blue Marble, taken in 1972 by the Apollo 17 crew on its trip to the Moon, is one that changed the view of the Earth forever. It is an iconic picture, and one that has appeared in zillions of places and seen by billions of people:

Blue Marble

This image of our planet has inspired so many people to care for Mother Earth, and has been used for recognizing Earth Day and in so many other tools to drive awareness of our planet over the years. And perspective will show that we need to continue to focus on our world. (You can read a bit about its history here, in a nice article on the Adobe Create newsletter site that stimulated me to post this blog. That article also talked about the Stuart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog, of which I still have a copy (1971) on my bookshelf.)

Whole Earth Catalog

Images can be inspirational. Images can help to end wars (like Vietnam) or generate charity or to basically influence people and performance.

On that note, I keep communicating about an image that could similarly affect workplaces, in particular the issues of improvement, engagement, innovation and communications. That image is this one:

Square Wheels One LEGO MAIN ©

along with the simple idea is that we can find all sorts of things to improve if we just step back from the wagon and talk about what is or might be happening. Talking through the illustration is easy and bombproof. Facilitating a workplace improvement process that involves and engages people is very straightforward, as well as cheap (we sell a $25 toolkit with the image and the worksheets.)

Anyone can help change their world!
It is about having relevant conversations!

Pass this on if your manager needs to better involve and engage the people in your workplace. Gallup shows that 34% of people are actually engaged in US businesses and it is generally lower than that in other countries (2016). We can do better than this if we just focus on making things work better.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

Facilitating? What are we accomplishing?

I play with LEGO. Yeah, and I do it in my training sessions too, focusing on the theme that things can be improved.

While cruising around, I read a solid post by Pere Juarez Vives called The Art of Facilitation, in which he put a little LEGO scene together. Cute. But it also tends to illustrate one of my issues with what is viewed as facilitation: It is not simply about playing with things but needs to be focused on the engagement aspect of work and on the issues of identifying issues and opportunities and then doing things differently.

Pere Facilition LEGO Scene

What Pere does is focus on the key points of the International Association of Facilitators basic premises, which is fine. It is an excellent organization and I went through their Certified Professional Facilitators (CPF) certification many years ago. You can click on the image to go to his writings.

I liked how he framed his post around the role of the Facilitator and how he aligned the key points to the IAF framework for professional facilitators. But I also have issues with that framework, since so much more facilitation is done by (or should be done by) managers and supervisors of people in the workplaces. Gallup just showed that US Engagement is at a 5-year high but recognize that it was still only at 34%, and that this is a LOT higher than what is seen in most countries. Engagement still represents a critically important issue for workplace motivation and innovation.

While some of these professional, arms-length practices are good, I always clang with them when I do a facilitation with managers, since I WANT them to leave with the same skills and techniques and approach that I did TO them — they get it, now I want them to DO it and those ideas are fundamentally mis-aligned with IAF focuses; they are viewed as un-professional in a way!

Facilitation is all about engagement, and there is simply too little engagement in most workplaces and with most Bosses. Meetings and discussions offer a wonderful opportunity to ask about issues and potential solutions. Thus, when I work with these managers, I want them to learn from me what I did and how I did it so that they can leverage the knowledge with their people.

Primarily, I do this with my Square Wheels® metaphor, which is amazingly fluid and flexible. Here is a little poem I did about teamwork:

Square wheels image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
A key principle is ownership, which I express as, “Nobody ever washes a rental car.” Participating in a discussion builds ownership involvement. So, getting these managers to lead similarly is my key focus in so many situations.

I also use the Square Wheels metaphor about how things really work, with the idea that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. These days, I illustrate those things using LEGO.

The reality is that it is NOT about playing with things, but about generating workable ideas and then having the motivation and momentum to actually implement them. So many facilitations simply do NOT accomplish things when people go back to the same work with the same pressures and parameters.

So, I suggest that you step back from your wagon and consider the possibility of doing something differently for a change.

Check out yesterday’s blog on thinking out of the box, for example.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Thinking Out of The Box – Seriously

Okay. You read that you have to “Think out of the Box” in order to be creative and innovative in your organization and to get anything new accomplished. I just read this again in an article in Inc. Magazine (Mar, 2016) just like I read about it 30 years ago.

The Box. Some things just never seem to change.

Maybe your box looks like this:

The LEGO Box for you to think out of

But I don’t think so. My guess is that it probably looks and works more like this

Square Wheels One LEGO MAIN ©

…because there are often other people involved in making progress and you have probably been pulling your box around for quite some time, right? It is simply hard to keep perspective.

Well, here is a little learning lesson: While things just might feel like you are simply pulling forward and things are operating on the Square Wheels and thumping and bumping along like always, you have other people involved who are probably fed up with not knowing where they are going and motivated to make improvements.

So, here are a few points of perspective:

  • Don’t expect much change if you continue to do those same things in the same way.
  • You are not in this alone!
  • Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!
  • Your Round Wheels are already inside the wagon.

Lastly remember this:

The Round Wheels you implement TODAY will be the
Square Wheels you must deal with tomorrow because
we really live in a world of continuous continuous improvement.

If you want to see a silent movie about how all this works, a movie of discovery, click here:

So, go deal with that box. Get some things done and have some fun out there,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Debriefing Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine – The Numbers

For the past 20+ years, we have been supporting a team building exercise focused on inter-team collaboration and the sharing of resources and information with the goal of optimizing organizational results. We know from our users, a global network of consultants and internal trainers, that the exercise is unique as well as highly effective.

Our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work. Most (89%) have run the exercise multiple times and 36% have run it more than ten times. (You can see a summary of our 2016 User Survey here)

So this paper was designed as a “high-level” document overviewing basics as well as advanced interpretations linking behaviors and game results to issues of organizational performance and alignment to shared goals and objectives. The goal of play is to drive real change in the workplace based on perspective, observations and commitments.

The attached document might be of interest if:

  • You already own The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
  • You are interested in how a team building game can be used to link to desired future behaviors and drive alignment and collaboration
  • You are already using another team building simulation and are looking to make improvements in your debriefing or your evaluation of play or ready to choose my game for use, instead!

One of our customers, a senior manager at a large public utility company, asked for my thoughts on her debriefing of the results when she delivered the exercise to her 100 direct reports. What evolved was a highly detailed review of how the results generated in play could be interpreted and discussed. While some of this information is included in the packaging of our exercise, I thought to include it here should our existing customers want to see these details.

Linking Measured Game Results to
Organizational Development Opportunities

Design features in Dutchman allow teams to acquire additional informational resources that help them optimize their results. Basic planning will allow every team to be successful and contribute. But collaborating with the leadership team and working across tabletops will allow them to mine even more gold. Acquiring the extra information allows their team to improve outcomes even more, and to choose as to whether they will assist another team or teams in the quest to mine even more gold.

You can see an intro to the Lost Dutchman’s exercise by clicking on the image below:

video overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Video: Facilitating Improvement

LEGO. iPhone. Square Wheels. Engagement. Innovation. Involvement. Ownership.

See what comes to mind when you watch this 45-second video.

And we would love your comments about your thoughts as to what is happening and what happens, or the final outcome of this effort or the next steps the team might take (like looking for another round wheel)?

Chris Fisher, my son-in-law and technical guru, worked this up and gave it to me yesterday. I think it is great, but what you think is probably more important:

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

The Neuroscience behind Square Wheels: Behavioral Neurobiology

The Science of Brain and Behavior, explained through LEGO and using Square Wheels images for anchoring ideas and concepts

Neuroscience is “hot” right now in the leadership development and organization improvement literature and I got one of those “doctorate thingies” in behavioral neurobiology* from UNC-Chapel Hill a long time ago, before this “brain science stuff” became popular as a solution to business and training problems. The basic reality and an insight to some training people is that the brain is actually involved in learning and memory and a variety of other human behaviors. We have actually known this for a long time… 😀

Scott Simmerman quote on neuroscience (grin)

Wikipedia defines Behavioral Neuroscience, as the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. The American Psychological Association publishes Behavioral Neuroscience®  for original research articles as well as reviews in the broad field of the neural bases of behavior. They are seeking empirical papers reporting novel results that provide insight into the mechanisms by which nervous systems produce and are affected by behavior.

Me, I don’t publish many empirical papers these days… I design team building games and use cartoons and I blog and try to publish readable, actionable thoughts on people and performance issues. But I DO study behavior and I do know about the brain and so I thought to elucidate a couple of understandable pedagogical conceptualistic  frameworks that underpin my use of stupidly simple illustrations and how they relate to things like communications, engagement, learning, facilitation, creativity, change and quality. My one word to describe the underlying key principle is “perspective.” Change perspective and you change a lot of things.

Generating change is a complicated thing to accomplish and there are some great books written about it, with “Immunity to Change” by Kegan and Lahey (2009) being a really solid work and a good read. I think that perspective is also key to Daniel Kahnemann’s book,”Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And I still like the elegant simplicity of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence.” All these books (and so many others) work by generating a more objective view of behavior and the working environment around it, much like what behavioral counseling is designed to accomplish (“Please, tell me about that…”).

Let me use LEGO to show you how the brain works:

First, we have a whole big bunch of input from all of the senses, information that comes in all at once with little structure or organization. It looks a bit like this:

LEGO Neuroscience 1 - How the Brain Works using LEGO

If that looks too complicated and confusing, maybe flipping it upside down will make it clearer?

Scott Simmerman LEGO Model of NeuroscienceWhatever…

Anyway, what all that electrical activity you have heard about really does is to allow different areas of the brain to add some structure and pattern and “brain-shape” to the information, prioritizing some information and ignoring other input. It uses the brain’s learned preferences, along with some innate / cognitive biases, for putting things into categories and cubby holes and relating one thing to another, something we call categorization and association. Memory storage is based on link new information to old and creating some blocks.
(Note: biases and storage link to lots of explanatory info on Wikipedia, if you want to click through…)

Structuring looks like this, which is not so confusing:

A LEGO Model of how the brain sorts information

Once the brain has learned a few things, which actually happens pretty early in life and which continues for most people their entire lives  is that we begin to see some patterns in things. Alzheimer’s, dementia and some other cognitive disorders are generally disruptions in information storage and retrieval, where these processes no longer work smoothly. Over time, more and more gets linked and related based on personal experiences and memories. This is normal learning; over time, more and more things get linked and the flexibility of sorting information decreases as these biases filter out more and more. Their behavior becomes more rigid and some tunnel vision can affect their perceptions.

If people start using a new model or framework through which to filter information, we can change how things are viewed and sorted. If they learn the metaphor of Square Wheels, for example, new information sorting can take place. Square Wheels can be framed in a metaphor about things that work but that do not work smoothly. Now, you can see them scattered among the blocks below, representing some new categories for how information can be filtered:

Square Wheels LEGO model of brain functioning

For those of us that are focused on process improvement and doing things more better faster, we will also look to identify some best practices or other choices that we might then label Round Wheels. Generating peer-level discussions of issues and opportunities and resorting and re-categorizing can refresh the learning process and generate more active involvement and engagement.

When there is something that is thumping and bumping along as a Square Wheel, most of us will think about ways to improve it. Seeing the gap between the way things are and the way things could / should be is motivating for most people, who will consider ways to close that gap. Leon Festinger discussed this kind of approach in his theory of Cognitive Dissonance. That might then look like this as they begin to consider some Round Wheel possibilities:

Round Wheels already exist

Now, obviously, your brain is not built from LEGO, at least for most of us, and I am being relatively simplistic in my descriptive model of basic neurophysiology. There are underlying structures in the brain that handle information in different ways, adding speech and comprehension and motor skills and all other sorts of output processes to the input of information.

But the basics DO apply, in that people’s brains focus on repetition and patterns and things that mesh in with past learnings are more readily integrated into what we know — ideas that are radically different are paradigms that are simply ignored. (See Joel Barker’s work video on Paradigms (from my pals at Star Thrower), based on the research of Thomas Kuhn and published in the 1960s.

Okay. Enough already on The Brain. How about some ideas on people and performance and how all this applies to the workplace!

Okay. The use of my Square Wheels images is really well-grounded in a variety of principles of learning and thinking that you might find interesting. So, I will try to share some of the underpinnings as to why such a simple approach can be so powerful and effective. Think about it!

NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) is a tool that helped me understand more of the links of behavior to how the brain handles information. My training took me to the Master Practitioner level and I led ASTD’s NeuroLinguistic Network for a couple of years a long time ago. It shares some interesting tools, like the Information Sorting Styles approach to thinking patterns. NLP focuses heavily on using dissociation as a tool to generate perspective. I call it, “stepping back from the wagon” in my simple approach and frame the concept of collecting ideas and generating participative involvement like this:

Don't Just DO Something, Stand There

Only by stopping the action and looking at how things work can you possibly identify new or different ways of doing things. By dissociating from the current reality, it is possible to see new relationships and gain new perspectives. Plus, if this is done with a shared approach, with more than one person adding ideas and viewpoints, the impact can be more better faster and the ideas can have more breadth and depth.

Dissociation and perspective also serve to decrease the emotional aspects of managing and leading change. In counseling, being able to simply view the situation without all the heavy emotional hooks is a desired outcome. The same thing occurs in the workplace. Talking about the THINGS that do not work smoothly is much less emotional than addressing issues that might be taken as a personal attack and thus generate defensiveness and active resistance. This is another reason why using Square Wheels as a metaphor is so effective.

Most of you are familiar with inkblot tests, properly called Rorschach tests. The visual has no reality but people will project their ideas onto that image based on their own information processing. (Look, a squirrel!) A related psychological test is the Thematic Apperception Test, which has situational drawings and people are asked to tell a story based on what they see happening. Both of these tools push people to put personal viewpoints and frameworks onto the images, which have no “internal construct” of their own. They are not pictures, but images that allow for differing perceptions and interpretations.

We do the same thing. Heck, this LEGO block is not even a wheel; it is actually a window! But it works for us as an image to use on the wagon, and if we calONE Yellow Square Wheel SWs LEGO 70l it a wheel, it must wheely be a wheel, right? (And I remember the time when I presented the illustrations to a software development group, who identified the Square Wheel as the Windows platform they were programming on! That was a hoot, as well as a surprise…)

Perception is a key to understanding. And people benefit by having a language on to which they can hang ideas. If the word for it does not exist, it is really hard to categorize it. That is another reason why Square Wheels work in the workplace, since they give everyone a common anchor point against which to pull and push around ideas for improvement. By its very nature, it could and should be improved and something that gets labeled a Square Wheel sets itself up for improvement.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” is a relevant quote from Henri Bergson. Having an image against which to overlay systems and processes allows for a better understanding of the issues around performance improvement.

There are two other aspects to perception that link to the theme of motivation. One is that having some vision, preferably shared with others is important. Knowing where you are going is beneficial. The second is ownership, in that having a sense of active involvement and engagement is important. I can illustrate with another of the Square Wheels images along with one of my most favorite organizational development quotes.

The View at the back of the Square Wheels wagon

The View at the back of the wagon is not motivating

and

SQUARE WHEELS LEGO IMAGE OF MOTIVATION 

Metaphors such as the Square Wheels / Round Wheels dichotomy are easily remembered and incorporated into workgroup language. The simple basic concept of a Square Wheel, something that works but that does not work smoothly, combined with the perception that the Round Wheels already exist in the wagon sets up a motivation for continuous continuous improvement **

Stepping back from the wagon allows a sense of decreased emotion while expanding perceptions, and often “considered alternative choices.” The latter are critical in order to conceptualize a different future. If you cannot see alternatives, you cannot choose from them. Simple.

Daniel Kahneman Illustrated Quote with Square Wheels and LEGO

and

Square Wheels LEGO image ALl of us know more

My goal was to present our simple concept of organizational involvement and transformation, the Square Wheels theme, which is general and flexible and adaptable to a wide variety of personal and organizational development situations. People have a generally favorable memory of LEGO and play, and the links to the issues of combining different perspectives on issues and opportunities lend itself to improved communications.

I will switch to this metaphor to close this out:

Caterpillars can fly lighten up round

I think we can all improve all things if we just take the time to lighten up and look at things from a different perspective,

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

* back before we became enlightened, we called it “physiological psychology.” Heck, the whole department is now called, “The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience” even though the website is still psychology.unc.edu so go figure… I might as well try to move into the mainstream of popularity.

** Idea from the Department of Redundancy Department and the concept that the Round Wheels of Today will, invariably, become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Failure to continuously improve is a design for disaster. Think of land-line telephones and MySpace.

 

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